Tow truck operators, law enforcement officers, fire rescue workers and other first respondents are at risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle accident if they are on the side of the road responding to an accident, issuing a citation, or helping a stranded motorist after a breakdown. Drivers whose vehicles have broken down are also in danger as they wait on the roadside for help, as are good samaritans who stop to provide aid to someone whose vehicle is not operational.
It is the responsibility of drivers on the road to exercise reasonable caution to avoid hitting someone on the road shoulder. If a driver is negligent and strikes an individual on the roadside, the careless driver could be held responsible for resulting losses. A car accident lawyer can help victims of a motor vehicle accident caused by a motorist who failed to exercise caution when passing someone on a roadside.
Move Over Laws Should Protect People Working Around Traffic
Throughout every state in the country, the laws actually require drivers to move over in certain circumstances when someone is on the roadside. Arizona's law went into effect in 2005 and is found in ARS 28-775. Laws called move over laws mandate drivers either slow down to a safe speed or change lanes when there is a law enforcement officer or other emergency worker with flashing lights on the shoulder of the road. In all states but New Mexico and Louisiana, drivers are also obliged by move over laws to change lanes or slow down when they see a tow truck operator on the roadside.
Although move over laws do not specifically require drivers to follow the same rules and slow down or change lanes when they see any broken down car (or person working on the vehicle), drivers who wish to be responsible and avoid causing injury should take precautions if they see someone on the road shoulder.
Drivers, unfortunately, do not know about move over laws and fail to understand what to do when a fire, police, tow truck, or other motorist is on the roadside. Pew Charitable Trusts reports on a survey showing 71 percent of drivers are unaware move over laws exist and oblige them to get into a different lane or slow down.
Even when drivers know of the existence of move over laws, many do not know how to follow the rules. Some drivers try to force their way over into a different lane. While changing lanes is advised when it is safe, a driver who cuts into a line of traffic could cause a crash. If a driver cannot safely change lanes, move over laws simply require him to slow his speed instead.
Drivers need more education on move over laws and there should be more visible enforcement. Each year, 10 to 12 law enforcement officers; 50 tow truck operators; and eight to 10 fire personnel are killed on accidents on the roadside each year. Injury rates are unknown for roadside workers. There are also many more injuries and deaths among individuals who have stopped on the roadside because their own car is broken down or to provide aid to someone else whose vehicle has broken down. Drivers can protect those on the side of the road by following best practices and slowing down or moving over.